Three Central Ohio women will ride in the 16th annual New Albany Classic Invitational Grand Prix and Family Day on Sept. 22 at the residence of Leslie and Abigail Wexner.
All three were chosen to be part of the international equestrian competition that features several Olympic competitors and a $125,000 purse.
"I've never competed in any competition as 'top of the game' as this one is," said 19-year-old Kate Morrison of Dublin.
Morrison is no stranger to competitions, having started competing at age 12 and earning two bronze medals at the 2013 North American Junior and Young Rider Championships held recently at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
The other two local riders also have participated in other competitions and each has ridden at least once in the New Albany Classic.
Gabriela Mershad, 18, of New Albany, rode in the Classic last year. She said she got interested in horses at age 8 and it was a dream of hers to participate in the New Albany Classic.
"It's an amazing experience and I am so thankful to be involved," Mershad said. "It's one of the best horse shows I've ever been to."
Mershad said it's a large show, with 18,000 people in the audience, but it's also got a different atmosphere, with proceeds benefitting charity and audience members who treat the riders like they are local celebrities.
"Grand Prix riders are looked at as important and the crowd acknowledges what we're doing a little more (at the New Albany Classic)," Mershad said.
Mershad recently placed eighth in the speed derby and third in the junior jumping competition at Spruce Meadows in Calgary.
Ali Wolff, 24, of New Albany said she, too, had a childhood dream to ride in the New Albany Classic.
"Since its early years, I have been attending the New Albany Classic in hopes of one day competing there myself," Wolff said.
"That was always a big dream for me," she said. "About six years ago, I was given the chance to finally compete in the (New Albany) Classic, and that was an amazing feeling.
"To be given the chance again to ride in front of my friends, family and neighbors is always exciting and greatly appreciated," Wolff said.
She has ridden in the New Albany Classic four times and placed third in 2009.
Wolff said she fell in love with horses at 3 and started riding at 5.
She said she has competed internationally at two different Nations Cup events, one in Austria and one in Argentina, and most recently won fifth place in the Grand Prix of Traverse City in Michigan.
Morrison said she's excited to have more spectators she knows in the audience during the New Albany Classic.
She said her parents, Betsy and Craig Morrison of Dublin, will be there, along with other youths -- she calls her "barn family" -- who train with Angela Moore of Stealaway Farm in Dublin.
"It means a lot to me to have my Mom and Dad at my shows and it will mean a lot to me to compete in New Albany because it's 20 minutes from Dublin and my immediate family and my barn family can come to a show," Morrison said.
All three young women mentioned the connection between the New Albany Classic and the Center for Family Safety and Healing, created in 2011 when the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence founded by Abigail Wexner merged in 2011.
The Classic is underwritten by the Wexner family, which allows all proceeds to go to the Center for Family Safety and Healing.
The New Albany Classic has raised more than $18 million in the last 15 years to help further the center's mission of combining public and private resources to stop family violence and provide support for victims.
"This is one of my favorite shows, not just because I don't have to travel, but because it makes me proud to be from New Albany, and everything that Abigail (Wexner) has done for the community," Wolff said.
She applauded the work of the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence and Wexner, saying, "She is a leading role model demonstrating how to give back to her community, and I hope others will follow in her footsteps."
Wolff is the daughter of Tanny Crane and John Wolff of New Albany.
She was born and raised in Upper Arlington and moved to New Albany in 2000. She attended the Columbus School for Girls and transferred to St. Andrews in Boca Raton, Fla., where she graduated in 2008.
She is taking online college courses at Lynn University in Boca Raton.
Mershad is the daughter of Sara and Rick Mershad of New Albany. She graduated from New Albany High School this year and will be attending the University of Colorado at Boulder in the fall.
Morrison will attend the Savannah College of Art and Design this fall and said she moves in one week before the New Albany Classic.
The New Albany Classic Invitational Grand Prix is a family event, featuring music, games, rides, local celebrities and food.
Admission is $20 and children younger than 10 are admitted free with an adult. Tickets are sold online through www.thenewalbanyclassic.com